mike.calvert at unisonfree.net
Tue Jun 5 11:51:26 MDT 2001
Here is something that I wrote in What next magazine under a pseudonym, it
doesn't mention Jospin but it does dish away some of the myths about
TOWARDS AN ASSESSMENT OF LAMBERTISM
Published in What Next? magazine
By Frank Wainwright
WHILE BELIEVING that What Next? is a good journal with a
valid contribution to make and a valuable role to play in the development
of Marxism today that does not mean that I do not have disagreements of a
quite serious nature with it. One such disagreement is with the journal's
failure to deal adequately with the politics of the Lambertist current.
My purpose of this piece is not to uncritically defend the politics of
'Lambertism' (as it is commonly known, after the historical leader of this
current, Pierre Lambert), but rather to offer an alternative perspective to
the usual apolitical bile that pours from the mouths of Phil Hearse-now a
political renegade in exile in Mexico- or Earl Gilman, as well as those
former members of Lambert's own group such as Andre Langevin or Pierre
Broue-who while a noted Trotskyist historian, dumped the Fourth
International years ago!
Whilst there are millions of workers and militants in this
country who have never heard of the Lambertists, there are nonetheless many
so-called revolutionary socialists around who are out to smash them. One
must ask the question why?' Why do certain people in this country fear the
Lambertist current so much? What is it that causes a problem for so many
British leftist groups?
Although it is clear that the theoreticians of the Fourth
International/International Centre of Reconstruction (FI/ICR) in Paris are
quite capable of defending themselves, they are not in a position to argue
with the left here, as their main theoreticians are based in France and in
the USA. Sometimes they send their emissaries from France to meet with the
trade unionists and MP's that they are engaged in united front work with,
and their small numbers dictate that it is almost impossible to engage in
debate with the British far left.
It is far more important to have an orientation to the
labour movement than to the Diaspora of the fifty different Trotskyist
sects. However, this means that slanders against the Lambertists are
allowed to gain currency within the far left in Britain, because the FI/ICR
does not consider such small groupings worthy of their attention.
A recent study' entitled This Strange Mister Blondel,
published by Bartillat Editions and written in the name of one Christophe
Bourseiller, purports to dish the inside dope' on the Lambertists. The
book, which is meant to be about Marc Blondel, the leader of the CGT-Force
Ouvriere trade unions, was reviewed in Workers' Liberty by Martin Thomas,
who used it to mount his own attack on the FI/ICR. In the same journal an
anti-Maastricht rally organised by the Lambertists in London in 1997 was
reported by Colin Foster under the sneering title The Circus Is Coming to
There also needs to be a response to the pieces carried
previously in the pages of What Next? by Bob Pitt in issue No.4, by Martin
Sullivan in No.5, and by Earl Gilman/Jack Davis in No.11 all of which are
heavily critical of the Lambertists.
If the FI/ICR ignores such attacks in the journals of the
British far left, it is because it has more important opponents to deal
with. In France the FI/ICR section has in recent years been savagely
attacked on at least four occasions. The first was by Pierre Broue, in
1987. Then Munir and Samir Mansour attacked it in 1993 over its positions
in relation to Palestine something with direct ramifications, as Munir
was a prisoner in Ramlah jail and his family was financially supported by
the FI/ICR at the time. The third recent attack was also in 1993, by a
Morenoist faction within the FI/ICR led by Pedro Carrasquedo, who denounced
Lambert quite savagely in the leftist press for his opposition to ETA's
bombing campaign in the Basque country. And the most recent attack was by
Bourseiller in the book mentioned above.
The attacks on the FI/ICR in What Next? really pale into
insignificance in comparison with assaults like these: direct political
assaults involving forces with a material basis in society and the class
struggle, rather than those in the pages of a small circulation, infrequent
discussion journal read by Trot-spotters and people in the discussion
circle business in London. The French section of the FI/ICR has some 4,000
members, and the broad Workers Party (PT), of which it forms the core, has
about 8,500 members. The French USec grouping, the Ligue Communiste
Revolutionnaire, which continually attacks the Lambertists, has a good
2,000 members. We are talking about organisations that are considerably
larger than anything currently existing in Britain.
The one thing that should be said of the Lambertist current
is that they are growing and developing a network based on the Transitional
Programme. How can people criticise them for that? Especially small sects
of two or three people! The Lambertists are not building a cult of
mystical influence' as Bourseiller and Martin Thomas claim they are.
The International Liaison Committee, the body set up in 1991
by the First Open World Conference held in Barcelona, seems to be growing
at a quite rapid pace and is possibly the largest regroupment of its kind
since the Movement for Socialism (MAS) in Argentina. The 1991 World
Conference was attended by representatives of significant forces embarking
on a process of wide regroupment at an international level. These forces
included expelled leaders of the Brazilian Communist Party, representatives
from the Soviet Union, Palestine, the USA, most European countries and
other places where the FI/ICR had a presence. It included many forces not
close to the FI/ICR. This process has broadened and deepened and a Fourth
Open World Conference is taking place in San Francisco in March 2000.
There has been a significant growth in the last eight years
in the numbers attracted to the projects of the Lambertist current. This is
a fact-not an opinion! They have recruited a large number of militants and
fractions that are breaking from the Stalinist and Social Democratic milieu
not least recently on the issue of opposition to Maastricht and around
the welfare state strikes in 1996. Only in January 1999 there was a
conference in the northern area of the Pays de Calais on this very issue.
The Lambertists have also recently begun to produce a regular
newsletter or bulletin of the partisans of the Fourth International. This
has begun with a number on the Labour Party and the 1997 general election,
followed by one on the Northern Ireland Peace Accords and a third on the
need for a working class solution in the Balkans.
The Fourth Internationalist Bulletin on the Labour Party
contains a very reasoned defence of why militants should work within the
Labour Party a much more positive approach than that of many leftist
groups in Britain today. The piece explains the position of the Lambertists
in the aftermath of the election of the first Labour Government in 18
years. It analyses the rise of Blairism and goes as far as explaining how
they see the development of a potential split in the British Labour Party.
The document goes on to explain how such a split in the Labour Party can
open up huge opportunities for worker militants but also what the role of
Trotskyists should be in relation to it. It defends positions similar to
the ones articulated by some people associated with this magazine, among
others, in seeing the importance of the trade union-Labour Party link.
Although the analysis was written a year or so ago, it
clearly stands in stark contradistinction to those who have jumped off the
edge of the political world into the fantasy island of the so-called
Socialist Alliances. It underlines the important point that comrades who
are committed to building an open organisation and comrades inside the
Labour Party organising to defeat Blairism should not put up artificial
barriers against collaboration.
The Lambertists may or may not be all the things their
critics in other organisations such as the USec say they are it may be
that they did or didn't do all the things their enemies accuse them of! In
any case, political currents can change they are not set in stone. Like
people, they develop with experience. Indeed, themselves have written a
number of healthy critiques of Lambertism.
There is a need to reassess the place of Marxism in today's
world not in the contemptuous manner in which Blair speaks of the
traditions of the Labour Party, but in a way that will take us all forward
in the current period. One must assess what it is that the far left seeks
to achieve in the conditions before us today.
Is our task to be one of abstract propagandism ... a la
Militant circa the 1980s? When they were confronted with the realities of
power on a local level they flunked it big time (just look at the debacle
of Liverpool). Or, do we seek to construct a world-wide party based on the
transitional method that is capable of helping the working class to resist
the hammer blows being rained on it by the capitalist class? The war in the
Balkans clearly illustrates for us that the choice facing humanity is one
of socialism or barbarism. You can follow the new realist path of New
Labour into the realm of barbarism or resist.
Those on the far left who continue to bury their heads in the
political sand, quoting from the great texts but keeping their banners
bright and sparkly clean, will achieve nothing. We cannot advance without
trying our best, within the limited resources we have compared to the
capitalists, to build mass socialist organisations in every country. No one
said this was going to be easy!
Whatever happens to the far left, and those who talk good
socialism or write good theory, the working class finds ways and means to
resist. In this respect, organisations come and go, and in the last 60
years a lot have gone. Surely our role as Marxists is to try and orientate
ourselves within the actually existing labour movement-as it is, not as we
wish it to be- putting our policies on the basis of working class democracy
and letting the working class movement decide: "The emancipation of the
working class will be the task of the workers themselves."
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